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Lisbon studies power project

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LISBON — The town will conduct a feasibility study to consider building hydro-electric power turbines on the St. Lawrence River bottom with the goal of providing low-cost energy to the region.

“I’d like to see us benefit from the resources we have here, and we’re not right now,” Lisbon Planning Board member Rhonda L. Roethel said.

The turbines would be placed in the channel between Lisbon Beach and Galop Island, where the current is moving fast enough to turn the structures’ blades.

“That seems to be where the flow is the strongest,” Ms. Roethel said.

Ms. Roethel said the turbines would be entirely submerged and would not obscure the natural scenery.

While the type of turbines has not been selected, Ms. Roethel said, “we’re trying to find something low profile.”

The town is also looking for turbines with rubber blades that wouldn’t present a danger to fish.

Ms. Roethel said she expects the turbines would be roughly five to six feet tall, connected to one another via underwater cables.

The cables would connect to an on-shore power station, from which power would be fed into the grid.

The town already has a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission giving it permission to move forward with a feasibility study, which will be conducted at no charge by Thew Associates, Canton.

The goal is to make Lisbon a hub of cheap energy, enticing businesses.

“We would like to have enough to supply 3,000 homes,” Ms. Roethel said.

That goal hinges on the flow of the river.

“How fast the water is going will dictate how much power the turbines will put out,” Ms. Roethel said, adding that if there isn’t enough energy, the project won’t go forward.

Last week, the Town Council sent a letter informing the New York Power Authority of the town’s intent.

“Initially it seems like we have the proper water flow,” Town Supervisor James W. Armstrong said.

Establishing hydroelectric power would require investment up front, and the town would not be able to foot the bill for the project on its own.

Ms. Roethel said the town would seek funding from federal and state sources, but is also open to including a private developer.

The only requirement, Ms. Roethel said, is the town wants the power to stay local, to help residents and attract new growth.

“If we can offer low-cost power, “it will be an attraction for businesses,” Ms. Roethel said. “We’re really in the initial stages and we’re making a lot of progress.”

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